Monkeys, typewriters

It’s no use debating about infinities. Given just a couple of million years, with just a handful of monkeys, one of them DID come up with the complete works of Shakespeare. Discuss.

Awwww. I gave a million monkeys a million years on a million typewriters, and all they came up with was Bacon.

“We’ve all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually reproduce the entire works of Shakespeare. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.” - Robert Wilensky

They also came up with the typewriter.

Been a Long, Long Time . . .

Of course, trying to find the works of Shakespeare among the monkeys’ output would be like trying to find them in The Library of Babel.

So true.

And, for your further amusement, you can look for this thread in MPSIMS.
(There really is no debate, here.)

Dang Machine…

To get a typical SDMB post - six monkeys, 20 minutes.

Uh, no. The experimental evidence is against you:

A bizarre experiment by a group of students has found monkeys cannot write Shakespeare. Lecturers and students from the University of Plymouth wanted to test the claim that an infinite number of monkeys given typewriters would create the works of The Bard. A single computer was placed in a monkey enclosure at Paignton Zoo to monitor the literary output of six primates.

But after a month, the Sulawesi crested macaques had only succeeded in partially destroying the machine, using it as a lavatory, and mostly typing the letter “s”. But towards the end of the experiment, their output slightly improved, with the letters A, J, L and M also appearing.

Bolding mine

There’s your problem. If you want Shakespeare you can’t use the Sulawesi crested macaque. They’re better at performance art; you use them when you put on the show.

So what species of monkey would produce Shakespeare if given a keyboard?

I think you’re missing the OP’s point, which is that a “handful of monkeys,” plus evolution plus time, produced the human race, which produced Shakespeare himself who produced the works of Shakespeare.

Possibly this one, which looks like a white-headed capuchin.

Yeah, it eemed really deep after several beers last night. Oh well. Also I think that trying to do this experimentally is missing the point of the thought experiment. ‘Monkeys on typewriters’ can be substituted for anything which randomly generates letters, spaces, punctuation etc. It was never meant to actually be done and the idea that the experimenters expected the monkeys to do anything other than defecate on the typwriters or try to eat bits of them seems a bit silly.

See post #6.

I’d be more interested in the monkeys which almost create Shakespeare, but for a few key words. Setting Romeo and Juliet in Swindon, for example, or replacing the speech Catherine gives at the end of Taming of the Shrew with an impassioned polemic on the use of primates in thought experiments meant to demonstrate infinity.

It was the best of times…

Whenever I see someone implying that human beings are monkeys or are descended from monkeys, I have to needle them a bit because it’s not quite scientifically correct, as discussed in this thread.

I was using a little poetic license here. I would never normally refer to a human as a monkey, although it’s not as far off the mark as people might think. Humans are apes, and there is no real reason other than convention why you couldn’t describe apes as a kind of monkey. it’s more to do with morphological similarities, like taillesness, than with relatedness. If we saw the common ancestor of humans and monkeys we would almost certainly call it a monkey, so I think saying that we are ‘descended from monkeys’ is justifyable although we are obviously not descended from any extant monkeys.